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Free Breakfast program to launch at Concordia

The Hive Café’s new initiative will offer a daily free vegan breakfast starting this fall to fight food insecurity.

In ASFA’s March 2023 elections, students voted in favour of a fee levy increase to the Hive Café Loyola Free Lunch program. These funds will be used to implement a new breakfast program starting this fall, providing free breakfast at the Loyola campus five days a week. 

“The team here, myself included, are really passionate about feeding students,” said Alanna Silver, the Free Lunch program coordinator. She also noted that few free breakfast options are available in NDG compared to the downtown campus. 

The Hive Café Co-op aims to serve breakfast to at least 100 people a day, as they already serve 250 through their free lunch program.

“We’re really passionate about creating a sense of community. It’s not just serving a meal,”

Silver Said.

One in 10 people cannot afford fresh food in Montreal, according to Centraide du Grand Montréal, and in 2022 Les Banques Alimentaires du Québec reported that 671,000 people in Quebec receive food assistance every month.

Silver explained how studies demonstrate that students retain their learning better when they’ve eaten their first meal of the day. 

The Hive’s vegan options have allowed a greater proportion of students to benefit from their menu, regardless of religion or dietary restrictions. The team hopes to serve vegan meals as well, although Silver concedes that most breakfasts contain animal products.

“[Our] choices are limited to smoothies, oatmeal and bread. So there was definitely some big debate on whether we should do vegetarian or vegan breakfast,” she said. 

The Hive will continue to produce vegan meals in-house. The increased fee levy will cover the added food, labour and equipment costs.

The project began development in mid-February, and the Hive team believes it will be fully implemented by the end of the year. The ASFA election results in March helped increase their funding by $0.25 per credit to support the project.

The team launched a promotional campaign around the university through social media posts, graphics and posters to get the word out. 

With the new project’s financial needs covered, the Hive’s next challenge will be managing their space. 

“We’re trying to currently figure out how we’re going to share a kitchen because obviously we’ll be doubling the staff, doubling the production, doubling the amount of equipment we need,” Silver said.

Correction:

In a previous version of this article, the Hive Free Breakfast program was referred to as the first free breakfast program in Canada. Both MacEwan University and Mount Royal University have free breakfast programs that predate the Hive Free Breakfast.

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Youth Stars Foundation platforms West Island youth to express their visions for the future

Initiative to raise awareness on community challenges gathers West Island citizens at Pierrefonds Community High School to recognize racial, mental and physical minorities.

Pressing issues affecting minority voices in the West Island community were the main topics of discussion at the West Island United rally hosted by the Youth Stars Foundation on March 26. 

The event’s main goal was to ally West Island community members under “unity, inclusivity, diversity and equity amongst all cultures, including racialized and BIPOC communities,” according to their website.

Teenage students spoke about how inclusivity at school helped them to feel more confident in their lives. In an environment that affirms their identity, they can be accepted for their differences and avoid exclusion.

The annual rally was held at Pierrefonds Community High School. Representatives from the local community were invited to speak, or share a poem to the audience.

Among the speakers at the meeting was high school student Kate Zarbatany, who performed a nine-minute monologue on neurodiversity by labeling autism as a misunderstood diagnosis. 

“It is unbelievable to think that so many people go through their lives struggling because they are not diagnosed,” said Zarbatany. ‘It’s important to remember that there isn’t just one form of autism. It’s a spectrum. Our world is designed for the neurotypical.”

“This is why I’m asking you to be our allies and try to better understand us,”  

she added.

The event hosted various West Island organizations providing different services.

Carrefour Jeunesse-Emploi de l’Ouest-de-l’Île, Action Jeunesse de l’Ouest-de-l’île, the West Island LGBTQ2+ Centre and Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Island each had their own booth.

SPVM agents were also present to provide community outreach.

However, Benoit Langevin, councilor of the City of Montreal for the Bois-de-Liesse district in the borough of Pierrefonds-Roxboro, noticed that there was an absence of Indigenous voices at the meeting.

“I think that we have to make bigger efforts for the Indigenous population,” said Langevin. 

In the near future, Langevin’s team is seeking to develop a new set of activities with the local library in consultation with the West Island Black Community Association (WIBCA). In February, the library hosted different shows to inform its residents on the roots of their Black community. Langevin plans to continue working closely with the association.

The event gave Pierrefonds Community High School students an opportunity to express themselves and their needs. “We’ve always talked about the importance of community, the importance of inclusion, the importance of belonging,” said Lester B. Pearson School director general, Cindy Linn. 

“We’re also realizing that in order to make those things happen, we need to involve everybody in the conversation,”

Linn Said.
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Dropouts from Co-op internships speak out

Concordia students share their experiences with the Co-op program

When Emma Amar was accepted into Concordia University’s software engineering program in April 2020, she was invited to apply to the Co-op program during an orientation session. She hoped to get experience in the field before graduating, alongside an accreditation to her diploma. 

But in January 2022, she called it quits.

“I decided to leave Co-op because I couldn’t stay and take a leave of absence,” she said. In 2020, the Co-op institute required software engineering students to take five classes for their fall, winter and summer semesters. Currently, their sequence requires fewer courses over an academic year.

“If you step out of sequence, then your Co-op gets messed up. So it’s very rigorous every semester. So most of my peers take five [classes] every semester.”

In order to complete the Co-op program, students must dedicate two semesters to learn about the Co-op program and to secure an internship via their institute. Then, they must successfully complete three internships, spread over three semesters.

“I was very excited to work because I’m not a person that enjoys [studying],” she said. “I have anxiety and have a lot of things that make it very difficult for me to be a student and a participant in a class setting.”

Amar’s internship workload felt like she was taking an extra class. “I have to attend all these workshops. I have to be a member of the Co-op institute, but I’m busy juggling five classes,” she said.

Juggling between being a full-time student one semester and working full-time the next, all while dealing with mental health issues made Amar realize she needed a break.

Despite the added stress she encountered with the process, she says she improved her technical skills through the experience. “Two years past that internship, I’m still using all the skills that I got from my job in my classes, in my group projects,” she said. “I’m able to sit down and actually be able to interact with my peers and actually be able to contribute.”

Alex*, who wished to remain anonymous, is another student whose Co-op experience was similar to Amar’s. They decided to apply for Co-op in March 2021; as a journalism student, they were eager to find internship opportunities in their field, but quickly realized that the program only offered opportunities to work in public relations and communications. 

“Sometimes I would have to go to a press conference. Well, I guess you do that in journalism, but this was not me asking questions. This was me networking for the company,” they said.

Alex thought their internship would teach them journalism skills, like following tight schedules, writing and publishing content. Yet they felt like their days were coordinated by random tasks their manager gave them.

Alex expressed feeling burnt out after that summer, having worked 50 hours every week,  including their summer job. 

“The university could do so much more to set us up for success with internships, and yet they don’t,” they said. “I sincerely hope that Concordia, the journalism department and the Co-op department figure out a way to have paid journalism jobs. Right now, it’s all communications, marketing or PR. And to me, that’s completely useless and irrelevant to my field of study,” Alex added.

“I still feel like I’ve never really recovered from that. It made me realize I want to do journalism,” they said. “The thing about Co-op is that you can’t quit halfway through because it looks like you failed on your transcript,” Alex said. “[I] was realizing that the Co-op program in journalism is kind of a scam.” 

After completing their first internship in summer 2022, Alex told their program coordinator they were no longer interested in being part of the Co-op program. 

Amar and Alex will not graduate as Co-op students, but as C.Edge students. 

C.Edge is another internship institute at Concordia for students who are transitioning to the workfield. Only one internship is required to complete the C.Edge program.

“It’s not going to show that I’m a Co-op student, but because I did successfully complete one internship, I’m a C.Edge student,” Amar said. “I have no idea what that entails.”

*a fictive name

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